Brazil-US Consumer Product Safety Conference Address - Friday, June 10, 2011, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

June 10, 2011

Bom dia.

 

Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction. President Jornada and Mr. Council General, it is a pleasure to share the stage with both of you today.

 

It is wonderful to be here in Rio. This is my first time visiting this vibrant city, and it is so exciting to be in the country that plays “jogo bonito,” the beautiful game of football.

 

My visit to your country could not come at a better time. Brazil is rapidly becoming a leader in product safety in the Western Hemisphere, and much of the credit goes to President Jornada and the work being done by INMETRO.

 

As President Obama stated during his visit to Brasilia in March, “Put simply, the United States doesn’t simply recognize Brazil’s rise, we support it enthusiastically.”

 

The memorandum of understanding that CPSC and INMETRO will sign this morning is symbolic, symbolic of our respect and enthusiastic support for the people of Brazil. We want this new memorandum of understanding to foster a new level of cooperation, cooperation that brings mutual benefits to consumers in both of our countries. And we want this new MOU to empower each of our agencies by expanding the exchange of vital safety information.

 

I have to share with all of you how impressed I was by the members of the INMETRO, ANVISA, and the Ministry of Justice staff who participated in an OAS-PHAO capacity building program in Washington, D.C., in March.

 

They displayed a remarkable depth of knowledge about CPSC’s major initiatives and regulations, the big issues that are being debated in the United States, and all of the key relationships in the global product safety community.

 

I have spent the past two years meeting with the top product safety regulators from around the world, and President Jornada, I can tell that you and your team have the energy and interest in using best practices to keep Brazilian consumers safe from dangerous products.

 

I believe that Brazil wants to be and is ready to be a major player in advancing product safety at home and throughout this region.

 

To advance the mutual interests of Brazil and the United States, our joint MOU establishes five points of understanding:

 

First, investment in training and quality assurance systems at all levels is essential to ensuring a high level of product safety;

 

Second, the increasing share of consumer products coming from other countries calls for closer bilateral cooperation to address our common safety challenges;

 

Third, enhanced cooperation to solve product safety issues can contribute significantly to the protection of consumer health and safety in our markets and other countries;

 

Fourth, we will work to improve the flow of information on rulemaking activities. Where feasible, we will cooperate on enforcement activities and the exchange of experience, data, and scientific findings that may contribute to common regulatory approaches; and

 

Finally, we agree that consumer product safety is an area of shared concern and we have already enhanced our collaboration through the sharing of injury data, scientific reports, and training and outreach activities.

 

In the years ahead, I believe that both agencies are committed to turning these points of understanding into points of action and results.

 

I would like to take some time this morning to share our recent achievements at CPSC and what work lies ahead. The issues I will discuss today will serve as a guide for where we may work together to achieve mutual benefits.

 

In October of last year, the Commissioners at CPSC voted unanimously to establish a new, five-year strategic plan. The vision of this strategic plan is for CPSC to become the recognized global leader in consumer product safety.

 

The five goals of our Strategic Plan are: leadership in safety, a commitment to prevention, rigorous hazard identification through timely and accurate detection, decisive response, and raising awareness of who we are and what we do at CPSC.

 

These are ambitious goals, and they are intended to ensure the highest level of safety for American consumers.

 

Since consumers in Brazil use similar products as American consumers, I believe there is the potential for mutual benefits if we achieve our goals.

 

Our new strategic plan is guiding us through a shift at CPSC—a transformation to being proactive rather than reactive, and a renewed focus on injury prevention rather than injury reduction.

 

To be proactive and to prevent injuries, we must do all that we can to stop dangerous consumer products from ever reaching the hands of consumers.

 

This is why we have increased our investment in import surveillance and detection. The more violative products that can be screened and stopped at U.S. ports, the greater the level of safety provided to the marketplace.

 

Increased cooperation among INMETRO, Brazilian customs officials, and CPSC will increase our chances of preventing toys with small parts or electrical products that can overheat and catch fire from reaching the hands of consumers in both of our countries.

 

Last year, our agency determined that more than 55 percent of the products that we sampled at U.S. ports were violative or dangerous to consumers. 2010 turned out to be a record year at CPSC for samples collected and samples found to be violative.

 

This was no accident. CPSC is committing more resources and more sophisticated technologies to our import surveillance effort.

 

The reason I am emphasizing this message today is to make sure all of you know that CPSC is getting better at catching the bad imports so that the good ones can flow through the system faster.

 

We do not want to hold up trade. Yet, I believe that trade and safety are interconnected.

 

When any shipment of children’s sleepwear or toys reaches a U.S. checkpoint, we want trade and safety to come together to help keep those shipments moving to their retail destination.

 

If our regulatory partners can join us in identifying unsafe products that may have been imported into the United States, then CPSC can be more effective in its surveillance efforts at our ports.

 

The vision I have as Chairman is for CPSC to foster cooperative relationships with regulators, foreign manufacturers, and stakeholders.

 

I want these relationships to be based on a common understanding that manufacturers should build products to the latest safety standards, and regulators should continue to converge on the best and safest standards.

 

As Brazilian businessman David Neeleman once said: “Value will always be on top of everyone's lists now, right along with safety.”

 

I believe Mr. Neeleman, who has been very successful in the airline industry, makes a very good point. Regulators need to appreciate the pressures on businesses to stay competitive by providing a good value to their customers. And businesses must commit to adhering to the safety requirements established by the regulators. I believe that the right balance can be achieved.

 

Now some of you here today may be aware that in 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a sweeping reform law that empowered and expanded CPSC’s authorities. The law is called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

 

I would like to spend a few minutes summarizing what CPSC achieved last year in implementing the CPSIA and explain what lies ahead this year. In 2010, we continued to ensure that makers of children’s products complied with lead limits that are among the toughest in the world. The toy industry, in particular, had a good year.

 

In 2010, there were only three recalls of toys in the United States due to violations of the CPSIA’s lead requirements.

 

That’s tremendous progress and progress that has continued so far this year.

 

Right now, children’s products are prohibited from having more than 90 parts per million of lead paint and 300 parts per million of lead content.

 

The CPSIA mandates that by August 2011, we must drop the total lead limit to 100 parts per million—unless we determine that 100 parts per million is not technologically feasible for a product or product category.

 

The Commission solicited and received substantial input from key stakeholders, including data showing that the majority of children’s products could meet the 100 ppm lead limit. The Commission is continuing to work on the question of what lead limit is technologically feasible.

 

In 2010, we vowed not to repeat the mistakes of the past, and as a result, we got ahead of the curve on cadmium in children’s products.

 

The CPSIA only sets a cadmium regulation for surface coatings on toys. So I delivered remarks in Asia last year that warned manufacturers not to substitute cadmium for lead in metal jewelry and other children’s products.

 

The warning I gave actually was very similar to a directive on cadmium that the Chinese government sent to manufacturers just a few weeks after I spoke. My words last year certainly still apply this year.

 

In fact, I believe that all toxic metals must come out and stay out of toys and children’s products.

 

The time is right to expand our vision beyond lead and cadmium because the CPSIA addresses more than lead and cadmium. Antimony, arsenic, mercury, chromium, barium, and selenium are also in our sights.

 

Like lead and cadmium, these are bad metals for children to be exposed to; and there is no good reason to use these metals in the manufacture of toys or other children’s products.

 

I have called upon all manufacturers, exporters, and retailers of children’s products to take the necessary steps to ensure that final products do not contain these or other harmful metals or chemicals.

 

CPSC staff is actively engaged in scientific work aimed at putting us in a leadership role to address these dangerous metals.

 

In 2010, we focused on establishing new national requirements for various juvenile products, as required by the CPSIA. The Commission approved new, mandatory rules for baby walkers and infant bath seats.

 

One of CPSC’s biggest moments of 2010 came when we established for the first time in 30 years, new and improved requirements for baby cribs.

 

So many families in the United States have suffered unspeakable tragedies due to defective cribs that contributed to their baby’s death. Our new rules were approved in December and go into effect on June 28, which is fast approaching.

 

You may have heard that the rules do away with dangerous, traditional drop-side cribs; but the rules also improve crib hardware, mattress supports, and slat strength. Improved testing and certification is also a requirement.

 

I am confident that a new generation of safer cribs are about to hit the market in the United States as a result of our new rules.

 

And I am very pleased that CPSC and INMETRO have initiated technical discussions on the crib standards. We all share the same goal of a safe sleeping environment for children, so this is a very good area for collaboration between CPSC and INMETRO.

 

We have also established new federal safety rules for toddler beds, infant walkers, and baby bath seats.

 

Bassinets, baby hammocks, play yards, strollers, high chairs, and other juvenile products will be subject to U.S. safety requirements over the next few years.

 

Some of you may have heard about a new consumer database of product incident reports that we have launched.

 

This database—which is found on the website SaferProducts.gov—is one of the most significant requirements of the CPSIA and one that I have supported from my first day as Chairman.

 

Consumers in the United States are now able to use this online database to report product incidents to the government and have open access to search for incidents of harm that other consumers have reported.

 

There are more than 1,000 consumer incident reports that you can view right now on SaferProducts.gov.

 

To consumer advocates here today, I want you to know that I believe that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer and this is another example of how CPSC is creating tools to empower consumers.

 

I am an advocate of open government and an advocate of providing consumers with open access to data and safety information via the Internet.

 

The Internet is one of the best ways to connect with consumers and empower them to make smart and safe decisions in their homes.

 

With all that the CPSIA has meant to my agency, I want to recognize the positive results that have come from the law.

 

The changes made by certain industries in the supply chain and enhancements in testing are helping to restore the confidence of American parents.

 

Parents are more confident that lead is not being added to toy paints or substrates; they are more confident that standards are being strengthened; and they are more confident that children’s products are being tested.

 

We must keep consumer confidence high by continuing to put safeguards into the manufacturing process.

 

Many of the product recalls that CPSC announced last year were tied to a theme that I have spoken about repeatedly: manufacturers need to design out product hazards and build in safety.

 

Building safety into a toy, a computer, a window covering, or a children’s garment, means always following the appropriate mandatory and voluntary standards.

 

It is also important to consider foreseeable use and misuse of a product. This is the only way to ensure that a product will retain its integrity and safety.

 

As I stated earlier, prevention must win out over reaction. From manufacturing to distribution, industry must work to prevent injuries by taking every step possible to build safety into their products.

 

From the start of my tenure as Chairman of the CPSC in June 2009, I said that I would be a firm, but fair, regulator.

 

I believe part of being fair is making sure that businesses know what we are working on that could impact their industry.

 

My visit to Rio is part of this effort.

 

Another key component is CPSC’s creation of an Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman. Establishing this office has been one of my priorities for quite some time.

 

Through the excellent work of our Global Outreach team, we are looking to bolster our visibility in South America.

 

The new Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman will play a vital role in coordinating education activities for international stakeholders, including manufacturers, importers, and foreign governments.

 

We realize that many manufacturers may not know where to turn for information on our regulations, or they might experience difficulty accessing the information needed to fully address safety in the manufacturing process.

 

I trust that by enhancing CPSC’s ability to address the questions and concerns of the regulated community, our agency can facilitate the transfer of knowledge across industries.

 

This, I believe, will ultimately create safer products through better educated manufacturers.

 

The Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman has the potential to increase our focus on important issues, such as quality assurance in the manufacturing process.

 

CPSC has long maintained that enhanced quality assurance programs assist manufacturers in producing products that comply with relevant safety standards.

 

This new Office of Education, Global Outreach, and Small Business Ombudsman will serve as a coordinated business unit and allow CPSC to

 

broaden its outreach to the international community generally.

 

By working with foreign regulators and industries, we can help them develop effective product surveillance strategies, product testing methods, and voluntary and mandatory product safety standards.

 

I am very excited about the potential of this new office.

 

From implementing our new strategic plan to using our new regulatory powers to working with our stakeholders, I believe lives can be saved and injuries can be prevented if we are proactive and collaborative.

 

If we are partners in this effort, I know that we can build upon the progress that has been made in recent years.

 

Progress that will help us move together to further reduce product recalls.

 

Progress that will help us move together to reduce product-related injuries to children.

 

Progress that will help to ensure that U.S. and Brazilian consumers appreciate the quality and safety of goods that make it into their homes.

 

I would like to close by quoting President Obama once again during his March visit to Brazil. He said, “Today, the United States and Brazil are the hemisphere’s two largest democracies and the two largest economies. Brazil is a regional leader promoting greater cooperation across the

 

Americas and, increasingly, Brazil is a global leader, a world leader.”

 

And, I will add, Brazil is an emerging leader in consumer product safety.

 

Thank you all for coming out this morning. Thank you INMETRO for being such gracious hosts, and I am very much looking forward to signing our new memorandum of understanding.